The US Senate voted to confirm Jim Bridenstine as the NASA administrator in a 50-49 vote today. The position has been vacant since January 2017. President Trump first nominated Bridenstine this past September.
The Senate went months without confirming Bridenstine after Republican senators Jeff Flake and Marco Rubio opposed the nomination. Rubio had said that he’d prefer a space professional leading the agency, though some suggested the objection was based on Bridenstine’s comments against him during the 2016 election. Rubio switched his vote, citing acting administrator Robert Lightfoot’s departure, reports Vox.
Flake initially opposed the nomination but switched his vote yesterday. His flip “wasn’t related to Bridenstine,” reports Politico rather cryptically. The vote otherwise stuck mostly to party lines, with the Dems opposed to a non-scientist leading the agency. Bridenstine was an executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and member of the Naval Reserve before running for the US House of Representatives.
Bridenstine has received tons of criticism leading up to the vote. He’s demonstrated that he holds anti-LGBT views and has proven skeptical of the humankind’s link to the changing climate. The study of Earth and climate science is a big part of NASA’s ongoing work. Just yesterday, the Daily Beast reported that Bridenstine used money from a nonprofit to benefit a business he co-owned.
The new administrator will come into the office facing plenty of challenges and questions, such as how the agency will move forward with missions like a moon base, the Space Launch System, and the much-delayed, over-budget James Webb Space Telescope.
Hopefully he doesn’t blow it.